In my living room is a coffee table piled with books. There are probably between twenty and thirty books there on any given day. This is my pile of books to be read. The books I’ve already read are piled haphazardly in the corners of the room. Those piles of already-read books grow slowly throughout the passing years. Book by book I am slowly entombing myself and worry that some day I won’t be able to move from my reading couch anymore. I shall be trapped by all my pretties and perhaps become encased in David Foster Wallace novels and commentaries by Aquinas. Some future archaeologist will discover my skeletal remains gently clutching my french press in one bony claw and an Edith Wharton novel draped over the holes where my eyes used to be. Don’t cry for me. I will have died happy, surrounded by all my best friends.
Anyway, the piles of already-read books are growing, but the equivalent pile of to-be-read books never seems to diminish in proportion. I’ve been actively trying to make it stop for years now. I’ve promised myself that I’m going to read what I already own before purchasing any more – a wise man values the treasures he has instead of yearning for what he does not – but then a new collection of Chesterton essays is released, Pope Benedict rewrites the intro to a liturgical tome, or the used book store around the corner acquires a new stash of Muriel Spark novels. Before I know it, I realize a twenty-dollar bill is burning a hole in my pocket and I hasten off, soon to return with new treasures clutched in my hot little hands as I carry them into my lair where I oh-so-gently place them on the coffee table pile.
I do read. I promise that I do read these books. It isn’t a pointless indulgence. There are, however, a few books that have been floating around in the pile for years and years now. My pile is highly unorganized and I tend to pick whatever shiny new masterpiece has caught my attention in the moment. I don’t have any sort of organized reading schedule (I’m not a monster), so the pile is always there, and some books in it may never be read – a telltale heart of secret shame.
Friends, do you have the same problem? We’re not alone!
The Japanese are here to help, and they’ve diagnosed our condition.
TSUNDOKU: THE ACQUIRING OF READING MATERIALS FOLLOWED BY LETTING THEM PILE UP AND SUBSEQUENTLY NEVER READING THEM
Let’s do some market research to see how bad off we all are:
How do you stack your books?
- Add the new book to the bottom of the pile and read from the top like an accountant
- I’m basically buried in them
- Add it to the top, newest is best
- Randomly add it to the bookshelf and forget about it forever
- stuff them under the sink and in the trunk of the car
Do you have a book acquisition policy?
- One-in-one out
- I buy what I want regardless of the consequences
- If I get too many for the bookshelves I start selling and giving away
Who is your enemy?
- library book sales
- generous friends
- the used book store guy
- amazon wishlist